Irina Santiago

Country: Brazil
Degree: PhD in Viticulture
Faculty: Faculty of Sciences, Engineering and Technology
Scholarship: Adelaide Graduate Research Scholarships (AGRS)

What attracted you to studying in Australia?
For a long time, I had the desire to move from Brazil to Australia to achieve a more balanced life.  I wanted to live in a country that had the informality of Brazil, but also more structured pathways for achieving goals in life. As an undergraduate in Brazil, I studied Management and went on to work in government and foreign investment attraction.  The work was interesting, but Brazil has the same work culture as the US, in that the longer you stay behind at work, the more you are recognised by your employer.  I wanted to finish my day at a certain time and not feel guilty.  I knew that Australians placed great emphasis on work, life balance and therefore I chose to come and study in Australia to benefit from this lifestyle.

What led you to your career change?
I wanted to study something that would make me happier in life and enable me to have a great lifestyle. One of the things I love about viticulture is the happiness of the people in this sector.  They get excited just talking about their jobs.  Their happiness around the careers and the sector in general was really attractive. It was hard leaving my family and friends in Brazil but I have no regrets.  I love what I do.

Why did you choose the University of Adelaide?
I wanted to study something related to wine making and it was the only university in the world that had such great hands-on post-graduate, wine courses.

It was the only university in the world that had such great hands-on post-graduate, wine courses.

Irina Santiago

What do you like about the campus?
The first day I went onto the Waite campus I remember becoming very emotional because it was such a beautiful place, full of singing birds and beautiful, huge trees.

How have you found studying for your PhD?
I started with a Masters in viticulture, however I didn’t have an undergraduate science background so my first year was pretty difficult. With a PhD, your supervisor is your most important support.  Mine has been fantastic.  She convinced me I was capable of studying for a PhD in the first place and advised me to apply for a scholarship.  I was lucky enough to be 1 of about 15 people in my year to win a full scholarship from the University of Adelaide.

What are the differences between studying in Brazil and Australia?
In Australia if you perform well there are very clear ways to be recognised.  Gaining my scholarship was proof of that.  I got 100% tuition fees and an allowance for my living expenses. I still have to work, but only 2 days a week.

Where do you live?
I live in McLaren Vale, one of Adelaide’s famous wine regions, just 35km from Adelaide.  I started working there to begin with and then decided it would be a great place to live.  I wouldn’t live anywhere else now, it takes me just 30 minutes to get into Adelaide and I get to live among beautiful vineyards and close to some of the most magical beaches in South Australia, like Maslin and Aldinga.  People have to see them to believe them!

What are your plans when you finish your PhD?
Whatever I do, it has to be connected to sustainability in the wine industry. I currently work for the McLaren Vale Group Wine and Tourism Association and would like to continue working for them in the future.  I intend to stay in Australia because I have made my life here now.

When you came to Adelaide, did you use the support services?
I enrolled onto the International Bridging Program (IBP) and was sceptical that it would be of help to me because it encompassed such a huge spread of students with such differing English language levels.  It turned out to be really helpful and over the years, I became a big fan of courses for international students and researchers offered by the Graduate Centre.  The University offers a huge amount of support to international students.  You just have to research and plan how these support services can help you best.